Defense Minister Gantz Apologizes for Palestinian’s Death

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi as both wear masks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Yerushalayim, Sunday. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz apologized on Sunday for the Israeli police’s deadly shooting of an unarmed, autistic Palestinian man.

The shooting of Iyad Halak, 32, in the Old City of Yerushalayim on Shabbos, drew broad condemnations and revived complaints alleging excessive force by Israeli security forces.

Gantz, who is also “alternate” prime minister under a power-sharing deal, made the remarks at the weekly meeting of the Cabinet. “We are really sorry about the incident in which Iyad Halak was shot to death and we share in the family’s grief,” Gantz said. “I am sure this subject will be investigated swiftly and conclusions will be reached.”

Halak’s relatives said he had autism and was heading to a school for students with special needs where he studied each day when he was shot.

In a statement, Israeli police said they spotted a suspect “with a suspicious object that looked like a pistol.” When he failed to obey orders to stop, officers opened fire, the statement said. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld later said no weapon was found.

Media reported that the officers involved were questioned after the incident as per protocol and a lawyer representing one of them sent his condolences to the family in an interview with  Army Radio.

Lone Palestinian terrorists with no clear links to armed groups have carried out a series of stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks in recent years.